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Natural Resources / Threatened & Endangered Species

Threatened and endangered species

Threatened and endangered (T&E) species within Pennsylvania are regulated through a complex of state and federal regulations — perhaps most notably the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 (PDF). Laws addressing T&E have been and will continue to be subject to regulatory changes and rulemakings serving to list or delist species with regular occurrence. T&E species coordination has a direct relationship to the National Environmental Policy Act and wetland permitting processes.

In Pennsylvania, there are both federal and state laws that prohibit "take," otherwise defined as the killing, harm, harassment, and other similar effects on T&E species. These prohibitions extend to all persons, however, regulations provide the ability to obtain permits allowing for take when incidental to an otherwise lawful action. For projects with federal funding or another federal action, Section 7 of the ESA, Interagency Cooperation, applies, requiring the federal agency to proactively cooperate for the conservation of T&E species and to consult with the USFWS or NMFS when undertaking federal actions. For PennDOT transportation projects, compliance with T&E regulations contained within the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Code (PDF) at 30 Pa.C.S. §§102, 2502, 2504, and 2506; the Game and Wildlife Code (PDF) at 34 Pa.C.S. §§ 102, 925, 2164-67, and 2924; the Wild Resource Conservation Act (PDF) at 32 P.S. §§ 5301-5314; and the Conservation of Pennsylvania Native Wild Plants (PDF) at 17 Pa. Code § 45.1-91 is also required.

In order to know whether T&E resources must be addressed for a project causing disturbance, the potential for T&E species needs to be identified within the immediate project area and beyond the project area to include areas that may be indirectly affected by the project collectively. Identification of potential T&E species should be done as early as possible in the transportation project development process and updated throughout the process in order that avoidance of the protected resources can be given full and fair consideration. Initial identification is conducted utilizing Conservation Explorer (formerly PNDI). Conservation Explorer Receipts may identify that no additional coordination is necessary, indicating "No Effect" on T&E resources. Alternatively, receipts may indicate whether conservation measures should be implemented, a programmatic process should be adhered to, or that additional agency coordination with one or more jurisdictional agencies is necessary. In instances where unavoidable take is likely to occur as a result of a project it may be necessary to prepare a biological assessment and conduct formal consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

 

Streams and Wetlands

Regulatory compliance and environmental stewardship are key facets of PennDOT's mission. As PennDOT advances a transportation project, the goal is to select, design, and construct the most reasonable, practical, cost-effective, technically sound, and environmentally sensitive transportation improvement option. In Pennsylvania, wetlands, rivers, streams, and lakes, otherwise referred to as "Waters of the U.S." or "Waters of the Commonwealth" are regulated by both the federal and state governments.

Wetlands, one of the types of "waters," are transitional areas between terrestrial and aquatic environments. Common names include swamps, marshes, bogs, and fens. Wetland habitats may be permanently flooded or only seasonally saturated. Any person or entity — including PennDOT — who impacts a wetland must obtain authorization (a permit) from both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). "Impacts" include filling, regrading, piping, draining, or flooding.

Projects that could affect waters and wetlands must follow a specific process and comply with various state and federal regulations. The most effective form of regulatory compliance is to identify and avoid water and wetland impacts from the earliest stages of a project. Impacting wetlands triggers permitting and mitigation requirements. During preliminary design impacts to waters and wetlands are addressed within the NEPA documentation. During final design, the necessary USACE and DEP permits are obtained.

​Program Name ​Overseeing Agency ​Purpose of Program ​ 
Pennsylvania State Programmatic General Permit (PASPGP)​ ​USACE ​Authorizes the discharge of dredged or fill materials and/or the placement of structures, that are components of a single and complete project, including all attendant features both temporary and/or permanent, which individually or cumulatively result in impacts to 1 acre or less of Waters of the U.S., including jurisdictional wetlands.
​Section 401 Water Quality Certification (WQC) ​DEP This certification is a prerequisite for other federal permits, e.g., the Section 404 permit. DEP certifies that any discharges into Waters of the U.S. resulting from the proposed project are in compliance with Pennsylvania water quality standards and other federal and state laws and regulations.
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Program DEP (delegated by EPA) Controls water pollution by regulating stormwater discharges into Waters of the U.S.
​Chapter 102 DEP Chapter 102 sets forth the requirements of the NPDES permits for construction activities. Specifically, Chapter 102 "requires persons proposing or conducting earth disturbance activities to develop, implement and maintain BMPs to minimize the potential for accelerated erosion and sedimentation and to manage post construction stormwater. The BMPs shall be undertaken to protect, maintain, reclaim and restore water quality and the existing and designated uses of waters of this Commonwealth."
Chapter 105 DEP "A person may not construct, operate, maintain, modify, enlarge or abandon a dam, water obstruction or encroachment without first obtaining a written permit from the department."